Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: cherry

Video: How to improve pollination on a cherry tree

A cherry tree in a garden may not set fruit for several reasons. One reason could be the lack of pollination – the transfer of pollen from one cherry variety to another that is essential for fruit set. If you have just the one cherry tree in your garden, you can compensate for this problem by cutting a branch from another cherry tree in blossom, putting it into a milk bottle with water, and placing the bottle at the centre of your tree. Bees will then visit the flowers both of the branch and the tree itself, and perform the cross-pollination needed to get a crop. It’s a simple but effective technique.

Cherry growing in the garden

Many years ago, when I was growing up, I remember my parents battling away, trying to cover their the cherry trees with nets to stop the birds eating all the cherries. This was not very successful and in the end, they let the birds have most of these delicious fruits. How things have changed. It is now possible to plant cherries on a dwarfing rootstock. The ultimate height of these trees will be not much more than 8-10 feet, depending on depth of soil and soil quality. To cover this type of tree with a bird-proof net is very feasible. However, there is one other point not to be overlooked; apply the nets when the cherries are still green. If you try to cover the trees when the cherries are nearly ready and the birds have had already a taste of the fruits, then the birds will make holes in the nets and the battle is lost.

Another important point is that cherry trees can suffer badly from early attacks of greenfly, black cherry aphids. This usually happens as soon there is new leaf emerging, right at the beginning of the season, well before blossom time (late April). Visit your garden centre and choose the most nature-friendly option to overcome this potential problem.

A good selection of varieties is available to cover the cherry season. Many of those varieties are self-fertile and therefore pollination should not be an issue. The trees will need to be staked, and they should not be planted in a frost pocket. A double layer of garden fleece will protect the blossom from being damaged by spring frosts. For further details, see our website Suffolk Fruit & Trees or send an email to

Fruit trees in containers

Image from page 133 of "Childs' rare flowers, vegetables & fruits for 1895" (1895)

Image from page 133 of “Childs’ rare flowers, vegetables & fruits for 1895” (1895)

A reader writes: “Is it possible to grow fruit trees, in particular a cherry and a greengage, in wooden or plastic containers on a patio?”

Yes, the important thing is to ensure that the containers are of sufficent size, to create stability and preventing them from being blown over by strong winds.

You can grow a cherry and a green gage tree in containers provided the trees are self-fertile and the containers are not too small. The bigger the container the better. The wooden container need to be no smaller than 50cm long, 30cm wide and 35 cm deep, and they have to have 2 decent size drainage holes, covered with broken clay pots to stop the drainage holes from blocking up.

The compost to be used is John Innes compost number 3, which is soil-based compost. As long as the trees are watered regularly during the growing season then the trees will be fine. Put the wooden containers on bricks and check that the water is coming out of the drainage holes. Feed the trees regularly and use the colour of the leaf as the indicator of the tree’s health and overall well-being.

Take a look at our Tree Varieties page. More information on growing trees in pots here.

Growing cherries for you to eat (not the birds!)

Compact Stella

Compact Stella

There is nothing nicer than growing cherries in your garden. Because of birds, 20 years ago growing your own cherries was a dodgy proposition. Then several new dwarfing rootstocks and some new self-fertile varieties came along. It became easier to grow your own cherries, particularly if you have a wall or a fence along which you can train your cherry tree.

Nowadays it is really possible to grow your own cherries on relatively small trees, which makes good netting as easy as winks. Being able to cover your tree as protection against spring frosts as well as birds gives an extra guarantee to your crop of cherries. Growing cherries in the garden is now a practical proposition.

Which type of rootstock to use depends on your soil and the type of cherry you would like to grow, whether a sweet cherry or a sour cherry.

However, make sure that you cover up your cherry tree with a double layer of garden fleece, BEFORE THE FIRST BLOSSOM OPENS! This is essential to avoid early spring frosts making your blossom sterile and making your crop prospects a disappointment. Leave some small gaps on the side for the bees to move in and out, as many varieties do better when pollination is performed with the help of bumble bees.

Finally greenfly, also known as aphids, can do real damage right at the start of the season. Go to your garden centre and select an effective product, organic or otherwise, to stop greenfly ruining your crop prospects.

Morello cherry

Morello cherry, photo courtesy of Rod Waddington/

Here are our top ten tips on growing cherries in the garden and making sure that you, and not the birds, can enjoy them:

1) To make netting a success. it is far simpler to train your cherry tree along a wall or a fence, rather than a free-standing tree.

2) Cover your cherry tree with green shade netting from early April, before blossoming starts and leave it in position until you have picked your crop in June/July.

3) Don’t let aphids ruin your young shoots. Cut out any curled up shoots and put them in the non recycling bin. Encourage ladybirds, lacewings and earwigs, which are effective predators of the aphids. As a last resort, spray with an approved anti-aphids mixture, obtainable from your garden centre.

4) To stop the fruit from splitting, water the trees weekly with 5 to 10 litres of water each week from May until you have harvested your crop.

5) To avoid fungal diseases always prune your cherry trees as soon as you have picked your crop. Never prune during the winter months!

6) Depending on the rootstock used, give your trees sufficient space. Not too close.

7) Only plant self-fertile varieties. We will advise you. Place your order early.

8) Pick the crop when ready to eat. Cherries do not ripen off the trees.

9) Handle the fruit gently; pick the fruit with the stalk and the cherries will keep for 10 days in good condition at the bottom of the fridge, if you don’t want to eat them all in one go.

10) If you go on holiday ask your best friend to pick the cherries for you. Do not let them rot on the tree. Feed your tree with organic manure each year.

Read more about growing cherries here.

Which are the best fruit trees for the UK?

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

Which type of tree fruit carries the least risk and is successful on most soils in the UK? Undoubtedly this is apple. Choice of variety is important, as normally it is colder in the north of England. Temperature during blossom time is of great importance in order to secure a good fruit set. Also in the northerly counties the type of pollinator will have to be chosen carefully. If you would like to plant some fruit trees, in any particular area of the UK, then we are happy to advise which varieties are most suitable.

A second question of importance is this; which type of fruit is more able to cope with areas of high rain fall? Plums and pears, provided the soil is not too acid, usually do well in the higher rainfall areas. Pears in particular are very sensitive to droughty conditions and thin soils. Cherries love deep soils. Greengages need the right companion in order to crop well. Cherries and greengages are more suited to central and southern counties. This does not apply to Morello cherries as these trees flower later.

What about peaches, nectarines and apricots? These fruits have a much higher demand of warmth and hours of sunshine during the growing season. However, if grown on the right rootstock and placed against a wall facing south, with sufficient t.l.c. and regular watering during dry and warm periods, during the summer months, the net result often is excellent. Click here to see a list of varieties with links for further information.

Frame for fleece on an espalier tree

Weekly update for cherry trees – first week of August

Now that the cherry crops have been picked, that is if spring frosts and birds did not do any major damage to your crop prospects, it is a good time to consider the size of the trees. This is the right time now to summer prune your tree(s), bringing them back to a size you can cope with. DO NOT LEAVE IT TO THE WINTER TIME. Summer pruning means cutting out surplus older wood and creating more sun and room for younger 1 to 3-year-old wood.

Read our month-by-month fruit tree care calendar.